Is Russia Preparing To Strategically Partner With The Taliban?

Recent developments, such as Russia’s invitations to the Taliban to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and debates on removing them from the terrorist list, raise questions about strategic partnership intentions.

Is Russia Preparing To Strategically Partner With The Taliban? 1

Because of their treatment of women and their unwillingness to establish a government that is inclusive of all ethnic groups, the Taliban continue to be shunned by the international community.

Regional players entered into de facto ties with this group for pragmatic reasons, even though no real progress has been made on either of those two extremely delicate subjects due to economic and security concerns.

Russia is far ahead of all nations that have done so, as evidenced by these most recent developments:

  • 16 May 2024: “Afghan Taliban no longer Russia’s enemy — Russian diplomat”
  • 17 May 2024: “Afghanistan to expand the range of goods exported to Russia — Deputy PM Overchuk”
  • 24 May 2024: “Taliban can stabilize Afghanistan if left to its own devices — FSB director”
  • 27 May 2024: “Russia invites Taliban to St. Petersburg International Economic Forum — Foreign Ministry”
  • 27 May 2024: “Russian ministries propose to Putin to remove Taliban from terrorist list — envoy”

As can be observed, Russia no longer views the Taliban as a danger and now views them as a regional security force that may help limit ISIS-K. Furthermore, Afghanistan’s geographic position makes it easier for Russia to conduct energy and commercial commerce with Pakistan. These shared objectives have encouraged Russia to welcome this group more fully in advance of the BRICS Summit in October and the investment forum the following month. The following are some thorough background briefings:

  • 27 September 2021: “Comparing The Contours of Russia’s Ummah Pivot in Syria & Afghanistan”
  • 19 August 2022: “The Taliban Envisions Russia Playing A Big Role In The Group’s Geo-Economic Balancing Act”
  • 6 March 2023: “The Top Five Takeaways From The Russian Ambassador To Afghanistan’s Latest Interview”
  • 16 June 2023: “Russia’s Afghan Point Man Hinted At The Possibility Of Military-Technical Ties With The Taliban”
  • 19 May 2024: “Analyzing The Strategic Importance Of Russia’s Reportedly Planned Afghan Oil Hub”

In essence, Russia views Afghanistan as a crucial component of its broader geostrategic realignment to Muslim-majority nations, while the Taliban thinks Russia may assist their nation in proactively avoiding excessive reliance on China and, in particular, Pakistan. Additionally, they have a mutual interest in promoting trade via Afghanistan between South Asia and Russia-Central Asia, which will benefit the transit nation and aid in its economic recovery.

The fact that Russia is debating removing the Taliban from its terrorist list shortly before the St. Petersburg International Investment Forum next week suggests that something significant is undoubtedly in the works between them. Presumably, Russia anticipates not just advancements on its purportedly intended oil center in Afghanistan, but also a possible update on President Putin’s previously disclosed intention to supply Russian pipeline gas to Pakistan via Afghanistan in September 2022.

Is Russia Preparing To Strategically Partner With The Taliban? 2

This does not imply that a deal will be finalized either since that requires Pakistan to finally consent to end their protracted negotiations on a strategic energy one. Pakistan has, up until now, been unwilling to do so due to American pressure following the post-modern coup in April 2022. However, even a Memorandum of Understanding on this and/or a parallel railway between Russia and Taliban-led by then likely terrorist-delisted Afghanistan would be significant since it may facilitate further Russian-Pakistani discussions.

The extension of Russian-Pakistani relations comprehensively is the ultimate goal of Russia’s Ummah Pivot and Greater Eurasian Partnership conceptions, and it is just this that the most recent advances in Russian-Afghan relations are working toward. The roughly a quarter-billion-person South Asian state is viewed as a potential market for Russian energy and economic exports, as well as an overland entry point to India, with whom Russia has maintained long-standing strategic relations.

According to the Kremlin, if Russian-Pakistani relations are successfully cultivated, Moscow may be able to positively influence Islamabad to politically resolve the Kashmir Conflict, most likely by formally designating the Line of Contact as the international border. Establishing a transcontinental corridor, may then fully unleash Eurasia’s geoeconomic potential, but this is all assuming the best, which is by no means certain.

For example, Pakistan may still be unwilling to compromise on a strategic energy agreement with Russia because of the pressure from the United States, or it may accept it but have significant differences with India. A further issue is India’s response to the all-encompassing development of relations between Russia and Pakistan, particularly if this leads to Russia extending an invitation to Pakistan to take part in the upcoming “Outreach”/”BRICS-Plus” Summit in October.

Either way, the elimination of the Taliban’s terrorist designation and their invitation to the investment forum next month are motivated by a real effort to move closer to a strategic energy agreement with Pakistan, which would complete their Ummah Pivot and Greater Eurasian Partnership. It is hoped that these interrelated procedures will move forward without incident or in a way that could unintentionally insult India.

Last year, GreatGameIndia reported that Hidayatullah Badri, the Taliban’s governor of the Afghan central bank, revealed that discussions between the Taliban and China regarding banking cooperation were underway.

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